Professor Dinesh Bhugra said that failing psychiatric wards were discharging sick people back into society who remained a risk to themselves and to others.
He warned that there was a “huge, massive problem” of depleting numbers of mental health doctors in the UK because not enough British medics were choosing to train as psychiatrists and visa restrictions meant that foreign doctors could no longer fill the gap.
A survey by the royal college found that 14 per cent of consultants’ posts in the UK were either unfilled or filled by a locum, and an additional 209 consultants intended to retire or resign soon.
In an interview, Prof Bhugra said: “We will be left with a dangerous vacuum of help for people with mental health disorders or will be forced to get special dispensation from the government to recruit heavily from countries who can ill afford to lose their mental health professionals.
“Society will be overwhelmed by the demand of those in need if government doesn’t act now.”